Mayor Tim Keller announced Monday the Housing Forward ABQ project to address the housing crisis affecting New Mexico.
“Today, nearly half of Albuquerque renters are ‘housing cost-burdened,’ meaning they spend over 30% of their income on housing, placing significant stress on middle-income households and creating real risk for lower-income households,” a press release stated.
Housing Forward aims to create 5,000 new housing units by 2025 and takes a multi-pronged approach to break down barriers to access in housing, protect renters from discrimination and predatory practices, while increasing urgently needed housing through conversions and new construction for residents of all income levels.
The 5,000 new homes is a good start, but estimates from local organizations state the need for affordable housing is as high as 32,000 homes.
The mayor hopes this plan will make the city more responsive to real-time housing needs.
“Albuquerque families feel and see the housing crisis every day. Today, we are laying out a bold course of action to lower prices, break down barriers to access, and create urgently-needed housing for our city,” said Keller. “Our families deserve options to live together, from casitas for grandparents to guest houses for adult children with special needs. For lower-income families, housing is vital for their security and prosperity. This is about ensuring everyone has a place in the city we call home.”
City Council President Isaac Benton said, ““We have to deliver for our neighbors from all walks of life so they can live and work in this city. The need for affordable housing has been evident for a long time now, and I’m glad it’s at the forefront so that we can work collectively to change the direction.”
The Albuquerque City Council recently appropriated $20 million as part of a Gross Receipts Tax Bond to provide more affordable housing as well as appropriating approximately $15 million in the last budget cycle for vouchers for residents needing housing assistance. However, finding rental properties that take vouchers is often difficult for voucher recipients. An estimated 22,000 currently unhoused households need permanent supportive housing. The city is working to create more new Permanent Supportive Housing vouchers and Rapid ReHousing vouchers by 2025. In addition, several federal and state funding sources will help fund more housing for all city residents. To increase supply, the city will need to repurpose existing properties into more housing as well as support new housing development. A number of new initiatives will help with this rehab and conversion.
Converting hotel/motel properties to supportive/affordable housing: Recent updates to the Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) supported by the administration and council allow conversion of existing hotel/motel properties into permanent housing units without requiring full kitchen facilities. Currently, this reduced kitchen requirement exception is limited to projects that are funded through Department of Family & Community Services (DFCS). The administration will propose amending the IDO to open this exception up to all housing developers, regardless of whether project is funded through DFCS. These conversions will help increase the supply of affordable housing units for lower-income residents. The city is currently working on one such conversion, and plans to support additional projects working with private nonprofit housing developers. The target occupancy for these motel/hotel conversions is at least 1,000 unhoused and lower-income individuals by 2025.
Converting commercial/office buildings to housing: The short supply of housing in Albuquerque is in stark contrast to the large supply of vacant or underutilized commercial and office properties. Mitigating some of the infrastructure costs for these projects will be crucial to making them viable for housing developers. The city is proposing a $5 million housing conversion fund using city, state and federal funding to facilitate the conversion of at least 10 commercial/office buildings into housing, creating at least 1,000 new residential units by 2025.
Expanding nuisance abatement laws: Properties that are magnets for crime, including drug trafficking, human trafficking and gun violence, will be the focus of stronger enforcement of nuisance abatement laws. Where possible and appropriate, these properties will be converted to housing units.
Expanding housing workforce: In discussions with industry representatives, one of the biggest challenges to bringing more new or repurposed housing on line is the limited availability of construction crews to complete projects. To expand capacity to carry out needed housing initiatives, Albuquerque will need to attract, train and incentivize more construction crews to carry out small, medium and large projects. Using the Job Training Albuquerque program as a model, as well as other state workforce development programs, the city will work with industry and building trades leaders to ramp up workforce capacity for building additional housing. The goal is to help train at least 250 new housing and construction workers by 2025.
Allowing more options in housing type in city zoning code: More than 60% of all housing in Albuquerque is single-family detached. Removing barriers to the construction and renovation of more diverse housing types is critical to accommodating the needs of the various populations in the city. Adjusting the IDO to provide more options and flexibility for housing developers is needed to address the housing demand. Some proposed changes include:
Increasing availability of casitas (accessory dwelling units ADUs): The city will propose modifications to the IDO to allow more construction and conversion projects in appropriately zoned areas for smaller living areas conversions or “casitas.” Allowing more construction of these units will increase the supply of affordable housing while providing additional income for current property owners. With this change, the hopes the number of ADUs will increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
Increasing availability of diverse housing options: The number of multi-unit housing options is far below needed levels to provide residents with the needed range of options in housing type, regardless of whether they are renters or home owners. By modifying the IDO to allow for more options of housing conversion and construction, residents will be able to find housing that meets their financial and family needs. With this change, the city hopes the number of multi-unit housing options will increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
Adjusting parking requirements: Another modification to the IDO supported by the administration will allow housing developers to adjust parking requirements in appropriately zoned areas to promote higher density and more infill housing. With this change, the city hopes the number of diverse new housing options increase by at least 1,000 units by 2025.
The city will also seek new federal funding support to supplement existing revenue sources being used for affordable housing projects.
These target goals are rough estimates of what the city’s policy and funding interventions could yield. The ultimate mix of strategies and total number of new housing units will likely vary depending on multiple factors including the economy, available funding and the available housing workforce.